what the trial reveals is something very damning, in the ethical if not legal sense: namely, what kind of people Trump surrounds himself with.
There was no secret about Manafort’s record as an influence-peddler on behalf of corrupt dictators and oligarchs when he went to work for Trump. On April 13, 2016, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote a prescient article headlined: “Trump Just Hired His Next Scandal.” Trump couldn’t have cared less. His whole career, he has surrounded himself with sleazy characters such as the Russian-born mob associate Felix Sater, who served prison time for assault and later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, as well as lawyer-cum-fixer Michael Cohen, who is reportedly under investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including tax fraud.
.. These are the kind of people Trump feels comfortable around, because this is the kind of person Trump is. He is, after all, the guy who paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against him from students of Trump University. The guy who arranged for payoffs to a Playboy playmate and a porn star with whom he had affairs. The guy who lies an average of 7.6 times a day.
.. And because everyone knows what kind of person Trump is, he attracts kindred souls. Manafort and Gates are only Exhibits A and B. There is also Exhibit C: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, is facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and false statements as part of an alleged insider-trading scheme. Exhibit D is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been accused by Forbes magazine, hardly an anti-Trump rag, of bilking business associates out of $120 million.
.. In fairness, not all of Trump’s associates are grifters. Some are simply wealthy dilettantes like Trump himself
.. Among the affluent and unqualified appointees Trump has set loose on the world are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, who are somehow supposed to solve an Israeli-Palestinian dispute that has frustrated seasoned diplomats for decades. No surprise: Their vaunted peace plan remains MIA.
.. ProPublica has a mind-boggling scoop about another group of dilettantes — a Palm Beach doctor, an entertainment mogul, and a lawyer — whom Trump tasked as an informal board of directors to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. None has any experience in the U.S. military or government; their chief qualification was that they are all members of Trump’s golf club, Mar-a-Lago.
.. Beyond the swindlers and dilettantes, there is a third group of people who have no business working for Trump or any other president: the fanatics. The most prominent of the extremists was Stephen K. Bannon, the notorious “alt-right” leader who was chief executive of Trump’s campaign and a senior White House aide. He may be gone, but others remain. They include Peter Navarro, who may well be the only economist in the world who thinks trade wars are a good thing; Stephen Miller, the nativist who was behind plans to lock immigrant children in cages and bar Muslims from entering the United States, and who is now plotting to reduce legal immigration; and Fred Fleitz, the Islamophobic chief of staff of the National Security Council. They feel at home in the White House because, aside from being a grifter and a dilettante, Trump is also an extremist with a long history of racist, sexist, nativist, protectionist and isolationist utterances
One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair.
.. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”
.. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.”
.. Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,”
.. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”
.. Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods.
.. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote.
.. All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller.
.. Over the course of the affair, Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel. “No paper trails for him,” she wrote. “In fact, every time I flew to meet him, I booked/paid for flight + hotel + he reimbursed me.”
.. In July, 2006, McDougal joined Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe. At a party there, she and Trump sat in a booth with the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Trump told her that Brees had recognized her, remarking, “Baby, you’re popular.”
.. During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event.
.. Another adult-film actress, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, known as Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room
.. During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.,’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant.
.. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!”
.. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”
.. McDougal’s account, like those of Clifford and other women who have described Trump’s advances, conveys a man preoccupied with his image. McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses.
.. Trump also promised to buy McDougal an apartment in New York as a Christmas present. Clifford, likewise, said that Trump promised to buy her a condo in Tampa. For Trump, showing off real estate and other branded products was sometimes a prelude to sexual advances.
.. The decision was reinforced by a series of comments Trump made that McDougal found disrespectful, according to several of her friends. When she raised her concern about her mother’s disapproval to Trump, he replied, “What, that old hag?” (McDougal, hurt, pointed out that Trump and her mother were close in age.)
.. friend mentioned a relationship she had had with an African-American man. According to multiple sources, Trump remarked that the friend liked “the big black dick” and began commenting on her attractiveness and breast size. The interactions angered the friend and deeply offended McDougal.
..Crawford said, referring to Trump. “I said, ‘You know, if you had a physical relationship with him, that could be worth something about now.’ And I looked at her and she had that guilty look on her face.”
Trump is, however, very much what the religious right has long rejected. The moral majority from which modern evangelical political activists descend rose in response to the immorality of the 1960s and ’70s. Sensing that American norms and morals were quickly changing for the worse, Jerry Falwell Sr. and others rallied to push back against a culture embracing sex outside of marriage, pornography and licentiousness. So it is no small irony that Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., helped rally many evangelicals to a man who embodies all the things Falwell Sr. stood against. Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, even posed with his wife in front of an old cover of Playboy that featured Donald Trump.
.. Scripture commands we care for the widows, the poor, the orphans and the refugees, but some of the president’s evangelical supporters are cheering on the government breaking apart families through immigration policies.
.. a large number of evangelicals have convinced themselves that their politics and faith are two separate things and they can champion a politician like Trump without it affecting their souls or salvation. They have rationalized their way into a bastardized version of Martin Luther’s two kingdoms theology.
.. These evangelical activists believe God has ordained the two governments and never the two shall meet, so what they do in politics has no bearing on the church or the advancement of God’s kingdom.
.. This will keep a solid base of shallow evangelicals for the president, but Trump won the electoral college by only 70,000 votes spread over three states, while losing the popular vote. There is a sizable though overlooked minority within evangelicalism, and they threaten not just the president’s power, but the GOP’s majority.
.. A subset of evangelicals are increasingly attracted to a Protestantism that derives from reformed theology. The GOP is risking losing some of these “reformed evangelicals.”
.. The party was supposed to be the party that championed the concerns of people of faith. Instead, it is a party that demands people of faith support a party ahead of their God.
.. The point is Trump believes people from these countries are undesirable immigrants. Many reformed evangelicals now have children from those countries, have funded missionaries to those countries, and consider citizens in those countries their partners in ministry and mission. Trump’s attack is an attack on their work to glorify God and care for their children. They believe all people regardless of nationality and background are made in God’s image and deserve honor and respect.
In 1999, Hefner told Fresh Air that his iconic magazine was inspired by his own repressive upbringing — he described his parents as typical “Midwestern Puritans.”
“I saw things in growing up in my own home and in society around me that I felt were hurtful and hypocritical,” he said. “… I believe and hope that Playboy [has] played some small part in changing the values — social and sexual — of our time.”
.. [After World War II]:
“There were powerful forces urging women to return to the home. (2:30)
.. Hefner’s first wife had an affair, which was the single most devastating experience of his life
Hefner, who validated the objectification of women by embedding their sexualized bodies between the more-respectable pages of first-rate writing, embraced and championed libertinism and materialism. “Bad boy” behavior — philandering, licentiousness and exploitation — was re-imagined and sold as “freedom,”
.. Perpetually stalled in adolescence, he was an early advocate of the socially debased trends Moore saw as having led to the unraveling of the American family.
.. the current president of the United States may be Hefner’s most sterling achievement. Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with material excess and women worthy of male admiration, is both protege and prototype, the essential playboy who has acquired wealth and glamour — and boasts that he can do whatever he wants to women.
.. For the president, religion is a convenience — until it’s not. Bannon, though no saint, is a Catholic who respects church doctrine, by his own admission, and is a street fighter for the hard-right.In Alabama, he, too, defeated Trump... But the standoff between Bannon and Trump via Moore and Strange may foretell the future of the GOP, which can’t survive without its Southern Christian base. Ironically, Hefner, who put Trump on his magazine’s cover in 1990, penned an essay when the thrice-married reality TV star secured the GOP presidential nomination, defeating Ted Cruz, a pastor’s son. To Hefner, this victory signified “massive changes in the ‘family values party’ ” and was “proof of . . . a sexual revolution in the Republican Party.”
“Notably, she did resist Trump’s insistence that she accept Playboy magazine’s million-dollar centerfold offer. “Trump himself was on the phone negotiating the fee,” rememeber a top Playboy editor. “He wanted her to do the nude layout. She didn’t.” (“I’m thankful for my body, but I didn’t want to exploit it,” Marla offers. “How would I ever be taken seriously.”